Archive for the ‘Street Meal; service; feeding the hungry’ Category

The makings of Believe Street Meal

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015


It was some time in 1995 or ‘96 when I first met her at Lynn Valley Full Gospel Church.  It was during a breakfast gathering while we both sat at a round table when I asked, “Is there anything in particular that you need for your ministry?” Her answer was “vitamins”.  The woman I am referring to is Ellen Shonta, better known as “Mom” to those on the streets… and it was there and then that my walk with her street ministry began.

Ellen’s ministry began by making and distributing sandwiches to the youth that hung outside her building.   I’m not sure how it expanded, but by the time I met her, many of the congregation at Lynn Valley Full Gospel were preparing over 100 loaves of sandwiches each Monday for her to distribute nightly as she made her rounds through Granville Street, down Robson and up Denman Street.  Her target was connecting with the youth, but she fed anyone and everyone she met, regardless of their age.  Being a mom herself, Ellen ensured that the youth stayed away from drugs and prostitution by stipulating that she would not feed them if they strayed to the east end of Vancouver where the drug pushers and the pimps frequented.

As she won their confidence, Ellen’s relationship with the street youth grew.  She was their friend and their advocate.  She was the one who shampooed a young boy’s hair when he didn’t know how to shampoo his own.  I was stumped over this for a while until I realized that as a young mom, it was I who had taught my children how to bathe and this lad didn’t benefit from the same.  While it was still legal, she would take one or two youth into her place, helping them and encouraging them to find the beauty and goodness in themselves.

Ellen never forced her Christian faith on anyone.  She told them that she was praying for them, but she would never force one to pray or listen to preaching before she fed them.

Ellen’s use of a scooter facilitated her ministry.  Eventually someone built her a four wheeled trailer and she and/or helpers would make their evening rounds with it in tow… and the “turkey-a-la-king” ministry was born.  It started out with a few deboned turkeys prepared in an “a-la-king” style every Easter and Thanksgiving but eventually, it extended to 8 roasted and deboned turkeys-a-la king, soup, stuffing and mashed potatoes on every special celebration.

In 2007, after the passing of her mom, Ellen retired from her famous Mom’s Agape Street Ministry so she could care for her family of origin.  And in 2008, the first Believe Street Meal was served on Easter Monday.

The Believe Street Meal comprises of ordinary people who share a common desire to provide a hot, healthy meal to the less fortunate (homeless and/or low income) living around downtown Vancouver.  Monetary funding is mostly provided by those who cannot actively take part.  Others donate goods in kind, baking and cooking from their own kitchen, donating dental hygiene, other supplies and clothing from their own purchases or from their business.  The use of a parish industrial kitchen and additional accessories (buffet pans, tables and serving utensils) has been extremely beneficial as it has opened the door for many to prepare and cook together while allowing friendships to grow and blossom, and also providing the necessary serving tools that would have had to be purchased for each meal.  All the labour offered comes from the overflowing love of God for each volunteer.

The call to service is never without glitches and hence, the Believe Street Meal is totally dependent on the power of prayer.  Although they may not be on the front line serving the guests or actively preparing the meal, the prayer warriors are a crucial partner of the ministry.

To end, I’d like to share a series of photos with you… (Mission Statement and a Testimony of a former Street Youth is at the end.)

God bless,

Melissa – April 23, 2015

p.s. – The following is a news clip of Ellen Shonsta, our former street Mom, during her active years…